Lack of federal assistance causing non-profits to fill struggling families’ diaper needs

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 11:24 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2021 at 6:57 PM CST
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - With little to no government assistance, families are turning to other programs and organizations to fill their diaper needs.

The average monthly supply of diapers for Wisconsin families for one child is $80. 25% of children in the state are in families earning 100-200% of the federal poverty level.

NBC15′s Diaper Drive, in partnership with the Village Diaper Bank, is accepting diapers and monetary donations through February 24, 2021.

“Diapers aren’t a luxury item, you know kids have to have them.”

Ellen Carlson, Middleton Outreach

Middleton Outreach Ministry sees first-hand the huge financial burden parents face in getting their children diapers. “Anyone who’s had a baby or a small child knows that it’s a resource that you have to have on hand at all times,” said Ellen Carlson, the Executive Director at Middleton Outreach.

The ministry’s supply of diapers would constantly run thin in years past. Carlson said they “would have them for a short period of time”, but that often “someone would come back the next week and we would have to say we were out.”

Nearly a year ago, the ministry became partners with the Village Diaper Bank, which provides them with 5,000-6,000 diapers every month. Families can get a pack of 30 diapers per child, every week. That supply provides around 200 families a month with diapers.

Carlson feels that providing diapers is an extension of creating housing stability in the community. “If we can help people with things like personal care items and diapers and things like that, that saves money so that they can pay their rent and right now so many people are struggling trying to figure out which bill to pay on which day,” explained Carlson.

While this relationship is helping to keep the ministry’s clientele afloat, the same can’t be said for every Wisconsinite. Children in low-income families are at the greatest risk of suffering the effects of not being able to afford diapers.

SNAP and WIC cannot be used for diapers. The only federal assistance program that can be used for diapers is TANF, which stands for Temporary Assistance For Needy Families.

However, TANF funds have to cover other expenses, including utility bills, rent and transportation. According to 2018 numbers, the maximum monthly TANF benefit for a family of three, that includes 1 parent and 2 children, is $653, with roughly 12% of that going to diapers. That means families have to make tough choices.

“This is an equity issue, as well as a public health issue.”

Senator Melissa Agard, (D) WI

For a number of legislative sessions, Senator Melissa Agard has been pushing to remove sales tax on diapers and other absorbency products in the state of Wisconsin.

“The more we talk about the fact that government is there to provide health, safety and security for our friends and neighbors and it’s not shameful to be someone who asks for help, the stronger we are,” said Senator Agard.

Governor Evers listed a sales tax exemption for diapers in his budget proposal. This would save families roughly $4.00 a month.

Senator Agard was pleased to see this included in the Governor’s proposal, but wants to ensure that it gets prioritized. “No good policy happens in a vacuum and removing the tax from absorbency products, including diapers in the state of Wisconsin, and making sure that provision stays in the budget and that we get that across the finish line is something that we get done together,” said Agard.

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